The International Tennis Federation will conduct its World Tennis Tour tournaments in China this year, marking a return to the Asian nation after a gap of three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport’s global governing body said Monday.

The ITF announcement accompanied the release of its calendar for the second quarter of 2023. It added that it anticipated the resumption of its activity in China later in the year and did not provide any more details.

The news comes after the women’s WTA said last week its decision on a potential return to China was “forthcoming” after suspending lucrative events in the region over concerns for former doubles No. 1 Peng Shuai‘s safety.

“We think it’s important that the World Tennis Tour and international events take place in all the nations around the world,” ITF president David Haggerty told Reuters in a video interview in February.

In the last full season in 2019 before the pandemic, China had hosted 25 ITF women’s events and 15 men’s events. World Tennis Tour events are professional tournaments below the elite level.

The ITF does not have major professional tournaments in China and is more focused on grassroots development events.

Haggerty told Reuters via email on Monday that the global body’s “paramount concern” was the safety of its players, and it would closely monitor levels of risk in every tour location.

“We have received reassurance that it’s safe for players, their families and teams to compete in China, so we’re looking forward to bringing the World Tennis Tour back there,” he said.

“Our fundamental purpose is to develop grassroots tennis in 213 countries with different social, economic and political conditions.

“We will continue to do that for the good of our sport around the world.”

Meanwhile, the ITF said women’s players would compete for a record level of prize money between April and June, with a total of $5 million on offer across 164 events during that period.

It said the figure marked a 12% increase in prize money on offer during the same period in 2022 and was part of its push for gender parity.

The tour will also stage the first ever World Tennis Tour event in Ethiopia and the first in Burundi and Cyprus since 2013 and 2016, respectively.

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